This week, we visit with Leo and his partner Jordan after a particularly good month at the firm.
“Where did you get those?”
“What? These?” Jordan said, pointing down, “oh, well since we had such a good month, I decided to treat myself.”
Jordan reclined in his chair, feet up on his desk. Moments ago, I had walked into his office to ask about a file. But I was transfixed — there, on Jordan’s feet, was a pair of tan, square-toed loafers with a gold-bit and faux-snakeskin details.These were the worst shoes I’d ever seen.
“One man’s treasure is another man’s trash,” I responded.
“But these are designer!” he implored.
“Yeah, a designer who’s hired by the circus, maybe.”
“The salesman told me these were in!” he said, somewhat defeatedly.
“The salesman would do anything to get a sale. And those monstrosites look like below on a clown. You’re not a clown, you’re a lawyer. You need lawyer shoes.”
There’s an adage that a man’s shoes are the first thing one person notices when a man walks into a room. If this is true, you don’t want someone to think you somehow got lost on your way from the circus caravan and mistakenly stumbled into court.
If you want to cultivate a professional image, you need to have professional shoes. Here are some things to consider.
Don’t Be Cheap.
Check out a group of lawyers, and you’ll see many who’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on custom shirts and suits, but appear to have neglected the same level of attention to buying quality footwear. This is to their detriment. Just like a good suit or quality shirt, shoes are an investment.
A good pair may last you your whole life. Bad shoes will ruin it.
Bad shoes are generally glued together, made with inferior corrected -grain leather, and are built to be disposable. Many fashion brands make bad shoes. So while the salesperson might assure you their shoes are represent the latest trend in footwear, they’re probably selling you hideous garbage.
In fact, speaking of hideous garbage, I have a confession to make. A few months back, Josh Camson wrote an article here about The Most Versatile Men’s Outfit. And I made a snarky anonymous comment about these. I’m not proud of my anonymous snark, but the message is solid — those tan, slip on, glued, square-toed shoes are exactly what you want to avoid. (Sorry Josh. No hard feelings, right?).
Tie Those Shoes.
A real, grown-up pair of shoes will have laces. You know, like the kind your learned how to tie in kindergarten? Yeah, those. Grown-ups tie their shoes. You should too.
I can see the comments section now: “But what about loafers?” I like loafers. I own a pair. But one shouldn’t wear loafers with a suit. Loafers are casual shoes and a suit is not a casual outfit. Simple. You can wear loafers with a suit when you make partner, or when you’re dressed down in an odd coat and trousers. Until then, lace up.
Styles to Consider.
There are two main different styles of lace-up shoes: Balmorals and Bluchers. If you care to learn more, I’ve given you the links to their respective Wikipedia articles; I’m just going to give you the very basics.
Balmorals are also known as closed throat shoes. Because of the way that they are constructed, the lacing area of the shoe (the vamp), forms a V shape. It looks like this:
The Blucher, or derby, is a more informal shoe. The lacing is “open throat,” meaning that the leather that holds the laces is a separate piece that is sewn to the shoe. It looks like this:
Balmorals verses Bluchers — Which Style Should I Wear?
Traditionally (in English circles), balmorals were the acceptable style to wear with suits, whereas bluchers were traditionally more appropriate for casual wear with a jacket or odd trousers. But these days, no one really cares.
What Color Should I Pick?
If you’re starting out and need a solid, formal workhorse shoe, you want black. Black is business. Black is conservative. Black is formal.
Some people will try to tell you that black footwear should not be worn with a navy suit. Those people are wrong. Black shoes go well with any court-appropriate suit color, and are in fact the best choice for formal business wear.
Brown is a less formal color, though still generally acceptable for daily wear. Burgundy is another less formal, though quintessentially American, choice. If you want to be safe, though, stick to black.
What Should I Look for When Buying Shoes?
Avoid square toes.
Companies make square-toed shoes because it’s cheaper and easier than making a good rounded toe shoe. They pass it off as fashion, but it just makes your feet look like Frankenstein’s monster’s. Meanwhile, the shoe companies laugh at the increased profit margins. Moreover, they are normally made of inferior leather and have rubber soles. Just say no. Besides, a slender shoe with a rounded toe creates the illusion of height by appearing to elongate your leg.
Look for leather soles on shoes.
While it’s not a perfect indicator of quality shoes, leather soles are an indication that a shoe is constructed a little better.
Avoid Shoes Made in China, India, or Brazil.
Moral qualms aside, shoes made in these countries are generally thrown together very poorly with inferior leather, shoddy finishes, glue, and poor craftsmanship. Fashion brands, for example Steve Madden, Kenneth Cole, or Banana Republic, make their shoes here to save money, not because they make good shoes.
What About Exotic Leathers like Snakeskin?
Can You Recommend a Solid Lawyer Shoe?
If you’re looking to graduate from clown shoes into footwear for grownups, your first real shoe should be a black balmoral captoe. And as I see it, the best, most solid example of this is the Allen Edmonds Park Avenue.
Allen Edmonds shoes are made in Wisconsin with quality leathers, and they’re Goodyear welted — which means that they can be resoled several times, instead of just thrown out once you’ve worn through the soles. Though they’re not cheap (they’ll cost you around $300.00), with some good care and polish, they’ll last you for years.
Keep those Shoes Looking New — Three Easy Tips.
Once you’ve made the investment, you want to help those shoes last. Here are three quick tips to keep them looking good.
- Taps. Before you wear them outside, take them to your cobbler and ask for heel and toe taps. These are small plastic bits that help prevent premature heel and toe wear. They’ll easily add a few months to the life to your soles.A leather-soled dress shoe with heel and toe taps.
- Shoes Trees. Yes, they’re essential. They help your shoes keep their shape and help them last a long time. Don’t skimp, get cedar trees.
- Leather Care. Finally, ensure that you polish and condition your shoes regularly.
There you have it, some dos and don’ts when it comes to buying real lawyer shoes. If you have other thoughts or questions, or you think this article was “truly hideous garbage,” let me know in the comments below.
And Josh, seriously toss those shoes.
(photo: Mens Shoes from Shutterstock)